I recently attended an art opening at the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin. This museum has its entire emphasis on art which reflects Mexican, Latino, and Latin American culture. This is what I enjoyed the most about this museum: a step inside this museum is a step inside a rich cultural learning experience.
Located in the heart of downtown Austin, the Mexic-Arte Museum is one of a handful of museums in the United States that is devoted to Mexican art. This is important because Mexican and Latino culture is rampant throughout Texas. Consider San Antonio, where Fiesta isn’t just Spanish for ‘party’ but is a colorful weeklong celebration of the city’s heritage. Texas has a strong cultural connection to countries south of the border, which should be recognized and appreciated.
A lot of the art was meant to spark conversations. Pictured above is a huge load of cardboard boxes stacked haphazardly on a small bike. This is in reference to urban cargadores (“carriers”). In impoverished countries, cargadores transport materials, such as cardboard, as a living. They often take large loads for small gain.
To see some real-life examples of carriers all around the world, check out this (unrelated) photo gallery of 21 People Carrying Way Too Much Stuff.
This installation was chilling. It is made up of over 800 clay tiles in the shape of body bag tags. They are used to pay homage to the hundreds of women who have died throughout the past two decades of violence in Mexico. There is path that runs through the middle of the installation. I stood in the center, surrounded and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tags hanging from the ceiling. Adding to the already present eeriness of the installation, the clay tags were created using soil collected from the site of Campo Algodonero. This is a field in which several women were found murdered and which now serves as a memorial site.
Pictured above is not a hoarders stack of newspapers; this installation speaks about the ongoing violence in Mexico. Described as “pillars of tragedy,” what you see are stacks upon stacks of Mexican newspapers with headlines of the mounting drug cartel-related deaths.
The past two installations, while heavy, are not to be brash. The purpose of these installations is show the violence in Mexico and how the artist chooses to represent or honor it. The purpose is initiate important dialogues about what is happening. It is also to invoke an emotional response – you should have one. That is my favorite thing about art, and why I always end up at art galleries.
This video was projected on loop and I watched it twice (you can watch it on Youtube here). I learned a lot about underground Lucha Libre. This is masked wrestling at its finest. As the video explained, it’s not just entertainment or sport. It is an aspect of the Mexican experience in cities around the border. The artist described her experience filming and the people she met:
They were proud of their heritage and of being able to celebrate it through Lucha Libre. What may seem to some as vulgar and crude – the yelling, the violence, and obscene gesturing – was for me, beautiful … for these are proud people; proud to be immigrants, proud to be Mexican.
I am delighted to share my experience at the Mexic-Arte art opening. Not only was it a good time with great music (and free Patrón), it truly expanded my understanding of these cultures. To any readers considering a visit to Austin, I strongly recommend checking out this museum.